Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Their Later Films Vol. 3 – Wes Craven.

The late horror-meister Wes Craven's 2010 horror-thriller My Soul to Take gets a bad rap. I remember reading a fan's tweet to Wes Craven, after its initial release, saying “It's okay, Wes, we still love you”. Clearly this film failed to strike a chord with horror audiences and with Craven's die-hard fans alike – originally titled 25/8, the film then sat on the shelf for over a year and a half after its completion, only to then be renamed, and then to be post-converted into 3D, which was all the rage in 2010, even though the film had not been shot with that in mind. Already the studio was worried about its reception and preemptively created the 3D theatrical release hoping to lure in the teenage audiences. Oh, yes, and his film was cut, too – some of the bloody horror toned down to get it from an “R” rating to a “PG-13” for its theatrical release. Really, from any aspect, it looks like Craven's film had gone through hell and back, and it did not come out unscathed, not it the least.

I never did see My Soul to Take in its theatrical 3D, PG-13 incarnation; instead I found a used (uncut and non-3D) blu-ray for three dollars at a store that was closing down. To be honest, I would have grabbed it if it was thirteen dollars; I was also a die-hard Wes Craven fan and I'd actually been looking forward to his film for a while, though at that time I was intentionally avoiding all things 3D at the movie theatres. After giving Craven's film a spin, I was immediately left wondering what the hell all of the negative feedback had been about. Okay, before I get too far ahead of myself, let's go back to the storyline for a quick moment here –

My Soul to Take concerns a group of high school kids (like Scream) who have been selected to die at the hands of a supernatural serial killer – or maybe not, maybe this killer is just out for vengeance, in a plot that vaguely echoes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven then throws more secondary horror themes into the mix, including the spirit of the killer who is able to body-jump from person to person (as in Craven's film Shocker), and the film's story starts to go down a not-entirely-necessary, yet weirdly exciting labyrinth of horror sub-plots and backstory; and Craven is impressively able to handle off this within his story without it fleeing into convoluted territory. The thing is, this is one of the trademarks of Craven's horror style, right out of his earlier films that had become part of his cult-hit cannon. So, why, then, I wondered, did My Soul to Take not hit it with his intended audience? Was Craven's signature style of storytelling no longer relevant? I find that even seven years later, I can't figure that one out. My only though on this is that perhaps, with time gone by, it might be time for fans to revisit My Soul to Take along side of his classics Shocker, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and his epitomic mind-bending meta-horror A New Nightmare (or, “Wes Craven's A New Nightmare”).

That being said, Wes Craven, ever the horror meister, was able to rebound with a vengeance (well, overseas, anyway) merely a year after-the-fact when his cinematic swan sang, Scream 4, was released into cinemas. A commercial hit overseas, and a moderate hit in North America, Scream 4, which this time concerned a grown-up Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and newcomer Emma Roberts (Scream Queens), was able to overcome the bad publicity and criticisms of My Soul to Take as well as the previous and dreadful Scream 3 (which had featured the ill-advised cameos of Jay and Silent Bob). Not quite as good as the first and hugely original (for its time) Scream, this fourth entry – fifteen years after-the-fact – was still just as good as Scream 2, despite the awkwardness from the internal jokes which couldn't make out if Scream 4 was supposed to be an actual sequel or a Hollywood reboot, and despite the trendy but unfortunate miscasting of Alison Brie and Marley Shelton. Still, Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts were a blast to watch, and Craven's last high school slasher film prevailed and subsequently spawned a new television series based on his work.

I still feel now, in the wake of his sad passing near the end of the first season of the Scream television series, that Wes Craven had another horror film in him. This could certainly be chalked up to wishful thinking on my part, but judging from the creativeness of My Soul to Take and Scream 4, there might've been something else that went untapped.

RIP, Wes Craven, 1939-2015.



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